Analysis

Free Agent Pass or Play: Marlon Byrd

Would it be worth the Phillies time to recreate this picture in 2014?

Each day until free agency begins, we at Phillies Nation will take a look at a player who will become a free agent five days from the conclusion of the World Series. We will explore potential performance, fit, cost, and feasibility. We continue today with right-handed outfielder Marlon Byrd. And a reminder: you can check out all the “Pass or Play” posts by clicking on the category hyperlink above.

Performance

Raise your hand if you had Marlon Byrd hitting .291/.336/.511 in 2013 with 24 homers after facing a suspension for PEDs in 2012 with a .210/.243/.245 line in 153 PA. Byrd’s 2013 was among the most surprising by any player in the Majors as the 36-year old posted an All-Star caliber, four-wins-according-to-FanGraphs season for the Mets and Pirates. Byrd was clutch down the stretch for the Pirates, hitting .318/.357/.486, helping the Bucs win the Wild Card.

Even in his worst years, Byrd has feasted on left-handed pitching, an area of opportunity for the 2014 Phillies to improve. Byrd is a career .291/.343/.461 hitter against lefties. The biggest question with the former Phillie essentially is when you offer a 36-year old a multi-year, $15-20 mil contract, will you be getting the 2012 Byrd or the 2013 Byrd? The one thing Byrd has lacked throughout his career is consistency – check out the chart after the jump for an illustration.

Marlon  ByrdIs a 36-year old player with that level of variance in play worth multiple years and multiple millions? Byrd has been so inconsistent that standard deviation indicates that you should expect him to contribute between 3.68 Wins Above Replacement and -0.20. That’s essentially a range of a fringe All-Star candidate to a player who likely shouldn’t be in baseball at age 36.

Fit

Considering the fact that Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cody Asche, Domonic Brown, and Ben Revere are locks to start and are all lefties and Jimmy Rollins had better splits last year as a lefty against righties, the Phillies are incredibly lefty-heavy, even more so than in previous years. While the Phillies search for the elusive “right-handed power bat” has led them down dangerous rabbit holes and likely got them burnt in a deal for Hunter Pence, Byrd has among the best splits against lefties among any free agent. Crazy isn’t it?

Cost

According to the awesome FanGraphs crowd-sourcing project, Byrd is likely in line for somewhere between $6-8 million per year for one to two years.

Feasibility

Ruben Amaro loves veterans and Byrd fits that bill. Surprisingly, the biggest obstacle in signing Byrd may be Byrd’s desire to re-sign with the Mets or the Pirates desire to re-sign him. Byrd would be a good value play but he’d certainly be high risk: it’s uncertain whether the team who signs Byrd will get the fringe All-Star or the almost-out-of-MLBer.

Verdict: Play, play, play!

Byrd is a lower-cost option that the Phillies should genuinely consider, even if it means signing him on a two year pact. I would not go over two years for Byrd but his career splits are good enough that he would serve his purpose and then some even if he performed somewhere in the middle of his career averages.

 

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. schmenkman

    October 27, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Byrd had a very good season this year, but I see it in the same way as Juan Pierre’s 2012. Very different players, but at a similar point on their age curves:

    Pierre
    wRC+ through 2011: 86
    wRC+ in 2012 at age 34: 98 (only his second season over 90 since 2004)
    Little chance he would repeat that in 2013 at age 35
    wRC+ in 2013: 62

    Byrd
    wRC+ through 2012: 96
    wRC+ in 2013 at age 35: 136 (only his second season ever over 109)
    Little chance he would repeat that in 2014 at age 36

    Incidentally, Byrd and Pierre were born only 16 days apart in 1977.

  2. Bart Shart

    October 27, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    PLAY—-Byrd is a very strong, athletic individual that probably has two good years left, or maybe three. He will be inexpensive and I believe he still has value.

  3. Cs

    October 27, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Ian’s first “play”

    • Ian Riccaboni

      October 27, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      Yep! I have a second one coming today at 4:00 PM, too. I just don’t think the player at 4:00 PM will be available for very long…

  4. Pamikedc

    October 27, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Heck no. How will that get us younger/better? Not a chance that we should (re) sign him.

    Stay away. He’s 36!!!! Face it guys, we need to get young and re build

    • schmenkman

      October 27, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      Agreed, this year was a fluke. Maybe as the short side of a platoon, but he’ll be too expensive for that.

  5. EricL

    October 27, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Oh no, Ian done gone crazy!

    You’ve got to let this Byrd fly away. [rimshot]

    • Ian Riccaboni

      October 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm

      Hahahaha!

      I like him but I have a better option for less money coming up at four. Just don’t know if that player will be around.

      Although, I do think Byrd will be a 2-win player in 2014 so $7-8 mil isn’t an overpay. It’s that second year that’s a killer and someone will give him that.

  6. Cory K

    October 27, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Totally agree that he is worth the risk. Primarily for two reasons. First as Ian pointed out, he hits left-handed pitching. Second he still provides defensive value in right field.

  7. Hogey's Role

    October 27, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Hell no!! Pass!!!

    I’d be willing to bet he’s probably on peds again…. A career year at 36 years old, come on

    • Lefty

      October 27, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      I don’t know about the age thing, look at David Ortiz- unless you believe he’s back on them too.

      • schmenkman

        October 27, 2013 at 5:21 pm

        There are always exceptions. It’s possible Byrd is one of the exceptions, it’s just not very likely, IMO. Someone who has their best season at 35 is most likely to revert to what he’s been his whole career (a somewhat above average hitter), except with age-related decline due soon.

      • Hogey's Role

        October 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm

        Ortiz is consistent though he didn’t come out of nowhere to put up his numbers… Something is out of the ordinary with byrds season

  8. DonnieB

    October 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    He’s a better fit for the Pirates or Mets.
    He could be a good platoon player, but not at the price he’ll demand.

    Cory Hart is likely looking at the same numbers as Byrd, and I’d rather have Hart over Byrd.

  9. Carlos Danger

    October 27, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    No thanks.

  10. George

    October 27, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Byrd is way too big a risk. When someone becomes has a season that’s the “most surprising by any player in the Majors,” it’s a pretty safe bet that he’s never, ever, ever been that good before, and at age 36 probably never will be again.

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